A terrestrial globe lost in the middle of a landfill -

Jaubert / SIPA

  • The International Geography Festival is held until October 5 in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.

  • Since the start of the school year, France Culture has been devoting a weekly program to geography.

  • However, the discipline is still frowned upon and unloved.

    There are several reasons for this.

The geographers have an appointment this weekend in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.

It is not the Riviera, but it is there that the International Geography Festival takes place every year.

This year, geographers concerned about the media exposure of their discipline have a reason to rejoice.

France Culture launched a weekly program devoted to geography in September.

It was about time… "We noticed, with the director of France Culture, Sandrine Treiner, that on our channel, as on many media elsewhere, geography was not so treated as a discipline, explains Dominique Rousset who leads and produces the program

Nos géographies. 

This discipline deserved a place in its own right like history and philosophy.


Yet among the scientific experts summoned to the media, and even in the research community, geographers are often invisible.

“Geographers are less listened to or consulted than sociologists, demographers, philosophers or economists, recognizes Dominique Rousset.

It's a shame because geography has a lot to say about current events in the world: food, immigration, housing… ”

Who can give me the four sub-prefectures of Charente-Maritime?

“Geography has a reputation for being a boring or arduous discipline.

But I discovered a community of geographers, very active, especially cartographers.

They are neither embittered nor frustrated.

Geographers have things to say and want to say them.

So why does no one want to listen to them?

"There is no absolute or definitive answer," explains Thibaut Sardier, president of the association for the development of the International Geography Festival of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.

But there is undoubtedly a misunderstanding about geography linked to bad memories of his teaching, when we learned by heart the name of the sub-prefectures and where to place countries or rivers on a map… ”

Christian Grataloup, geographer and author, former professor emeritus at Paris Diderot University, also sees secondary education as the source of French disenchantment with geography: “We are one of the only countries in the world to teach geography with 'history.

And the story eats up most of the interest of the teacher and the audience.


Who can locate Tasmania for me on this map?

Because of this, geography is at best little taught, and sometimes poorly taught.

“Almost all - 93% the last time I checked - have a background as a historian, regrets Christian Grataloup.

CAPES laureates discover geography by becoming a secondary school teacher… According to the programs, history and geography are equal in teaching hours but when there is a ratio of 60% and 40%, we can consider ourselves happy .

Many parents of students tell me that their children have had no time in geography in some years… ”

From there, the discipline is necessarily poorly known to the general public.

"There is still this image of the geographer as a laborer who draws maps or a guy who makes travelogues," laments Thibaut Sardier.

However, geography uses many analytical tools and theoretical elements that make it possible to understand situations.

Geographers, by studying spaces and territories, manage to provide an understanding that cannot be found elsewhere.


Who can give me the common point between the Vosges and Siberia?

The problem would perhaps come from there with the geographers: they are too smart.

Geography is a fairly ambitious discipline, explains Christian Grataloup: “The word has existed for a very, very long time, it is a Greek term for the description of the Earth.

Originally, it was a question of describing the distance, the beyond the horizon, by particular ways of writing, such as maps.

Geography has existed since Antiquity in all societies.

The problem is, it's something that describes… Everything.

Rivers, mountains and plains, but also climates, peoples, plants, economy, population… Everything.


“People see geography as something exotic when it is really in touch with our societies, our lives,” explains Thibaut Sardier.

For example, this year, at the festival, the theme is



Behind the global notion of climate change, in the singular, geography observes the consequences territory by territory, and the people who live in it, from the Vosges forest to the Russian permafrost.

Geography is at the crossroads of scales, it tackles general problems to which it gives an understanding, territory by territory.


Who likes geographers?

Demography, sociology, economy, ecology… Geography is thus somewhat the mother of all the social sciences which describe the contemporary world.

So there may be a little jealousy when, for example, historians make fun of geographers ... That and the pain of having to get away from the geography tests at CAPES when only the Visigoths, the Edict of Nantes and the Triple Alliance interests them.

Geography is a bit of a discipline that comes back when no one has invited it.

Even if it is worth admitting it when he writes books himself, Christian Grataloup sees another reason for disenchantment: "An editor told me the other day that" geographers are people who do not know not write ”… It's hard but it's a bit true.

In any case, geographers do not know how to tell stories.

Cartographers manage to catch the eye and the interest of the public.

But the rest of the geographic work… And then, in 1984, Pierre Bourdieu noted that geographers do not recruit among the best students in secondary education.

This re-entry, for example, while there were more baccalaureate holders than usual, it was the geography faculties that saw their numbers increase the most.


Another story

Let's take stock.

We therefore have a fuzzy discipline, poorly taught, catch-all and which does not know how to sell itself, but also rich, curious, easy to appropriate ... "I did not conceive of the program

Nos géographies

as a program of revenge , says Dominique Rousset.

But it is true that there is a form of injustice towards geographers.

However, since the launch of this show, I have only met some fascinating people.


Whether in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges this weekend, or on France Culture every Thursday from 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., in various magazines or even on social networks, geographers seek to make the clichés lie.

Maybe it's time to listen to their stories.


Precautions, patience and a monumental puzzle ... The Quai Branly museum has installed an Olmec sculpture weighing 4.5 tonnes


Vanuatu is the riskiest country to live in the world

  • Research

  • Sociology

  • Festival

  • History

  • Media

  • Science